Negombo, the Buddhist Trail, and more…

 

The Arrival

After a harrowing 16+ hour flight,  we were told that we could remain in the Marhaba Lounge of the Dubai Airport for our 7 hour layover only if we had onward connections to Tehran.  We informed them that we did not have that connection, in fact maybe never, but the nice ladies decided that our Premier Mastercard status was enough to be permitted to stay.  We finally reached Negombo, Sri Lanka on June 23rd 2010.

Sri Lanka is a tear-shaped island located southeast of India with a population of 20 million people, five million ownerless dogs, 70% of this population being Buddhist (the people not the dogs), but in Negombo, 90% are Christian.  Buddhism is 2561 years old but is slightly younger, 2361 years old in the country of Sri Lanka.

Negombo was a good place to get over jet lag being that we were literally on the other side of the world, 12:00 noon here is about 11:30 at night in Los Angeles.  The “highlights” that we checked out when not asleep included the fort, fish market, and the Agurukaranulla Temple, the main Buddist Temple in Negombo.  The actual town was describd by our friends MT and Rene who had been here in 1979 as a “plush tourist resort catering to middle-aged Europeans”.  However, 30 years of Civil war and corresponding neglect have left Negombo in a state of needed repair.

The highlight of Negombo was definitely the locals hospitality and kindness.  One example is the story of a tuk-tuk driver who asked us in passing if we wanted to tour someplace.  After we declined and talked for a while, he realized that we had never eaten hoppers.  He insisted at no charge that he drive us to his home where he would make us fresh hoppers.  Jude and Kamala were so kind to invite us into their home, sharing their language, photos, and of course hoppers (basically a crepe).

We lodged at the Ocean View Hotel (no ocean view) and were welcomed by the wide smile of the owner, Mark Thamel who inherited this business from his father.  The location is good and we were able to sample very tastey local food here.  Our room had A/C, and cable TV,  reasonable for about $25US per night.

Kandy   

En route to Kandy we saw elephants from the bus and we stopped for a break where we saw fruitbats.
After checking into the Sharon Inn with descent views of the lake area we walked into town where we witnessed the celebration of Poya, that included a full street show of costumed dancers, clothed elephants, a whole street party that was returning the relic back to its original location.

                                                      Kandy Returning the Relic Parade


 We also visited the Botanical Gardens where we saw a giant palm avenue, bowling ball sized coconuts, and other massive flora that included a huge fig tree where we met 14 students who were so friendly, an overriding theme in this country.  Many local couples wre there holding hands but the policemen blew their whistles if any “indecent” behavior was a possibility.

A highlight of Kandy in our opinion – not even list in the Lonely Planet Guidebook – was the Sri Maha Bodhi Viharaya 88 foot statue perched atop a hill that overlooks the city, giving us excellents views, 850 feet above sea level.  Of course we also saw the Temple of the Tooth, the location where Budda’s left incisor is supposedly resting but we were only able to see the tooth casing, lucky for us we were told by the locals.

And a couple of recommendations in Kandy:
1) The Queen Hotel has a good restaurant for local food and is very reasonably priced at under $5US for two people.
2) Gulf Tailors #1 on Castle Lane with Mr. Nazeerdeen “the expert for wedding suits” and in George’s case, the person who sewed two ripped shirts back into travel shape.
3) In the central market you can purchase cheap Banana Republic, Columbia and Polo attire original as they are all fabricated in Sri Lanka, some without tags as to avoid problems with the police.  The vender atr One- Nine- Two fashions remembered Adele Barker, the author of “Not Quite Paradise” who lived in the Kandy area for a year working at the nearby university.

Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Polonnaruwa 

Next we traveled to the first capitol, Anaradhapura founded in 380 B.C.  Our planned lakeside hotel, the “Boa Vista” was closed even though we paid 10% up front online.  Only the cat came to the locked door and wouldn’t open up.  We stayed instead at the friendly yet sparten Lakeview and took an excellent afternoon tour of the ruins with Muthalif in his tuk-tuk.  He was informative and friendly.  His email is [email protected]  He is recommended and has a van as well.  Again we came across tons of friendly students who were visiting the       ruins from Batticoloa.  Students like these are finally seeing their own         country after many years of civil war.  We also went to Sigiriya, a stunning rock fortress where you can climb to frescos and later a Lion’s Paws that protect the final ascent to the top with views of the surrounding area.

 Also highly recommended is the Dambulla Temple, a cave with many ornate statues and paintings of Buddha inside.  We also visited the temples of Polonnaruwa before heading northeast to what everyone has been calling the best each in all of Sri Lanka.

We arrived in Trincomalee, a beach town that had obviously faced the onslaught of civil war and still appears in disarray.  We caught a local bus to Nilaveli one of two great beaches in the area according to Sri Lankans and the Lonely Planet.  We arrived at night….More about this in our next post!

                                                            Sri Lankan Family Nilaveli

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. You can find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.3 million views on her YouTube channel. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed an Olympic swimmer and numerous bestselling authors and has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. She was named both a Top 10 Travel Influencer and a Top 50 Female Influencer for 2021 by Afluencer and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. She has been nominated for the inaugural Forbes 50 over 50/Know Your Value list due out in Summer 2021. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best and has more than 150,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and has also run 15 travel competitions publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on We Said Go Travel. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded two Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards. From 2017 to 2021 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won four times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won in 2021 as Book Critic and in 2019 for one of her KTLA TV segments NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards and a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal. Niver has written for National Geographic, USA Today 10best, TODAY, Teen Vogue, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave(ish): It's All About Perspective 50 Adventures Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. When she's not SCUBA diving or in her art studio making ceramics, she's helping people find their next dream trip.  http://lisaniver.com/one-page/

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